New anti-HERO ad drags abc13 into political fight

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- On the first day of early voting, two new ads were released to abc13. Both of them are available here, but we are told will start airing on broadcast and cable television Tuesday.

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick held a news conference Monday to unveil his offering. In the 30-second spot paid for by Patrick's campaign, the Lt. Governor stands against a flag draped background and tells viewers, "City of Houston Prop One is not about equality. That is already the law of the land. It's about allowing men in women's locker rooms and bathrooms."

VIDEO: Anti-HERO TV ad paid by Dan Patrick campaign

VIDEO: Anti-HERO TV ad paid by Campaign for Houston

Patrick acknowledged that as a state senator and now at lieutenant governor he has largely stayed out of local issues, but called this "an extraordinary circumstance."

"This is absurd ... In the old days, if you saw a man following a woman into a restroom purposefully whether they thought they were a woman or otherwise you would grab them by the collar and pull them out. Now if this ordinance passes anyone who tries to stop them can be sued or fined. We've turned the world upside down," Patrick said.

In the second new ad, the anti-HERO group, Campaign for Houston, uses clips of an abc13 newscast in which Mayor Parker says "This just doesn't happen!" in reference to transgender women following girls women into the restroom for illegal purposes. The ad then highlights a 2012 case in which a transgender woman was ticketed for using the women's room at Parkland Hospital. The woman in question, Paula Witherspoon, is a registered sex offender for crimes committed against teenagers in 1990. At the time, Paula was Paul Witherspoon.

While the ad doesn't mention it, Dallas news accounts around the time of her 2012 ticketing show all Witherspoon did was use the restroom. There was no suggestion she abused or attempted to abuse anyone. Media reports say the ticket was dismissed.

Houston Unites, the group supporting the HERO ordinance, says in that case Witherspoon was a victim of discrimination. Fran Watson, a spokesperson for the group, told Eyewitness News voters ought not be making a choice about restrooms at all. "Proposition 1 is for all Houstonians. We have 15 groups that is protected: race, sex, color, national origin, veteran's status, pregnancy. We're saying that real Houstonians are facing discrimination. We want to make sure we have this ordinance out there for those Houstonians."

As a recap: HERO stands for Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. It is on the current ballot for voters in the City of Houston as City of Houston Proposition 1. It would allow 15 different groups of Houstonians to complain about discrimination at City Hall as opposed to filing a federal lawsuit, which is currently the only option available. A yes vote passes the ordinance, a no vote turns it down.

We should point out that the clips from our newscasts were used without abc13's permission and should not be interpreted as any sort of endorsement one way or another on Houston's anti-discrimination ordinance.
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